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Want to protest against attacks on minorities; then meet them


[With about 80 people dead in the attack on Church and resent earthquake (in which it is feared deaths to reach 1000) both indicate how ineffective our govt. has been in protecting and serving it’s citizens. A deafening silence for the earthquake victims on social level shows how much we have just accepted that our govt. cannot do anything for us.]

[note: a friend pointed out that what I wrote feels like I am saying only minorities are being targeted. No they are not the only ones, there have been consistent attacks on masajids, bazars and security forces. Ones who are attacking minorities are attacking all Pakistanis (Daata Darbar attack is not so distant event). However it does not mean our society does not need more open communication among religious groups living in it.  We all might not be spilling hate about them, but we do get criminally silent whenever someone is killed in the name of blasphemy. Putting a friend’s face to group might reduce our biases. ]

Let me start by saying I don’t believe in protesting against terrorists. No I don’t believe that holding banners and marching while shouting slogans on the Mall road (Lahore) is going to deter terrorists from attacking another mall or church or school or masjid; brutally and cowardly killing innocent people. So all those questions about shame of being Muslim and protesting against terrorist just indicate how naive are we.

I am not talking about not protesting against government, we can protest against lack of security, unequipped and poorly armed police and poorly functioning security net that should have predicted such event.  We can protest against all this but against terrorists such protests loose their meaning. Why? because they are cancer. One does not protest against cancer that plagues ones body. One takes action against it, medical procedures aside, one changes his/her life style, throws away tobacco, adds more greens in diet, starts running a bit. One takes stock of everything he/she has been doing till now and changes it.

If we are  really serious in fighting this menace, if we really want to remove cancer from our bodies we should change what we have been doing till now. We have been living in monolithic society in a non monolithic population. We have been ignoring all that is different to us, like they don’t exist. Lets change that, lets allow us to get familiar with who live among us.

Lets go to Church on weekend with our families,  invite members of Hindu community to our masajids, learn basics of Sikh religion, let scholars of different religions come and give lectures in our universities. Let them explain what they believe in and let us tell them what we stand for. Lets have a picnic where our kids can play together.  Lets make it difficult for this cancer to spread to our next generation.

Let our kids know people with other faith are not some strangers but part of our society; it’s OK to be different, it alright to believe in something other than what you believe in. But most importantly let us teach them what other beliefs are. Lets burst the bubble we have been living and accept there is more than just what we have been told. And we do that by listening to people of different faith, let them tell what their religion is not what our imagination has cooked up. 

All the goals of removing hate from our books are great, but they will not be solved by some govt. they will be solved when majority of us will have one friend who is not from our religion. When our friends will not shy in telling they are Ahmedi or Shia or Christian or Sunni or atheist or agnostic, that will makes us question all the hate we have unconsciously living with.

If we want to protest, lets protest by action and do something that will last long. Lets take a first step and meet each other, lets make one friend this week who is not in agreement with our belief system.

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Dear IT Minister, PRISM is the story not the “objectionable material”


What was more serious about this part of news “Pakistan’s new IT minister warns Google over objectionable material“? was it being just following the same line that was being followed by previous government or was it completely ignoring most important even in the cyber space,Boundless Informant program by USA government? the cyber espionage? Dear IT Minister, if no one has told you, let me do the honours and tell you that matter of day is Data gathering not “objectionable” material.

When the guard is being handed over and government is being formed one can forgive slight misjudgments, statements that reflect not fully thought out policies; so I am willing to give pass to our new IT Minister in this regard. She wants to restore the youtube but with the filters and willing to put more money in the project. Good that’s the right direction to go (although I don’t know what policies going to dictate those filters, but having a framework is better that blank blackout).  While we are investing in this, we should be closely watching what is happening in the data gathering program. Not only watching when it’s going to hurt one of our institutions but how it’s going to hurt our people. It is time to move our concerns of interests from institutions to the people of Pakistan, defend their rights and their data privacy is their right. 

Mr. Obama has welcomed the debate by the media, it is the debate that does not include anyone from Pakistan. Are we not concerned about it or are we willing partner in this? We are banning Youtube and other websites for objectionable material, we should be seriously considering how the data collected from them could be used to spy on Pakistani citizens.

Why Pakistani citizens are not on the street in a same way they were when some “movies” were posted on youtube?  Majority of them overwhelmingly believe in conspiracy theories and think they are living in the Orwellian society, they could be forgiven for not making much hue and cry about these revelations because to them these are not revelations (this is one of the side effects of believing in conspiracy theories, no breaking news is breaking news, thrills of knowing something which no one knows has already taken them to other dimension). I hope IT ministry has better understanding of these matters. Our government has to become part of the story, put their pressure in. That’s what makes leaders of global statures. There is only certain amount of political capital, it is time to spend it wisely. 

This is where we can reform how the data is collected by the social media, how it is stored and how it is accessed. It is quite smaller in terms of the local politics since it is not about setting up filters to block few pages of profanity. It is quite big in terms of what direction global business will go. We can set policies for future. 

We don’t have technological abilities to that, but that’s the way we should be going not towards setting up filters to block content but to set up the process that controls the content. 

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Boston: Things to do in summer


It has been a week and I have still not started making list of things to do. It has been a busy week, I should say and will going to be busy next one, however first step is going to do things is to make list of the things to do.

If you have any suggestions, any places one should visit, any events one should not miss??? and webpage listing interesting activities going around in Boston (including Cambridge, Somerville, etc…..) do tell.

It’s rough collection and very poor quality list

 
 

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4th Nov & 11 May; crossing University Ave.


Yes it is about elections in Pakistan, but it about my experience also….. and it’s invitation to cross the University Ave. so read if you are interested. It is about a day some years ago.

In less than 30 minutes I must have crossed the University Ave. 30 or 40 times; whenever the traffic light turned red and pedestrian light switched on, I crossed the road. I crossed it with my other friend and there might be 100 students doing the same thing, right on the corner of Swamp Restaurant.

Just an hour or so ago,  ABC news has said polls are closed and they were ready to declare Obama President of USA; date was Nov. 4 2008 (yes I had to go back and check date, as people who know me know I don’t remember dates).

And these students excited on the prospect of something new, on promise of something different, a change, these young people just few years in their twenties (some even younger than that)  were on roads of Gainesville. It looked so easy in the end, it looked like all the worry of past so many months of seeing Sarah Palin heart beat away from becoming the most powerful person on earth, was nothing.

I think there were some exams going around and few were told about the results while they were taking tests. And in some cases teachers promised they will not going to look at the results till the end of the class. Now when results were out, as per the boring tradition, no one knew what to do, no one knew if any celebratory party was going around. Gators did what we were accustomed to do, gather at University Ave. (some new kids don’t remember old days of us winning those championships and closing down of University Ave., good old days)

I don’t know how it started, but students started crossing the University Ave. 30, 40 people on each side whenever the pedestrian light switched students will cross the road, high fiving people coming from other direction, shaking hands and talking and enjoying.

It was a monumental moment, even for me who is not American. I who came from the country where every 10 years the army takes over, where the best leaders you get are Bhuttos, I who was sad and angered when I had seen my countrymen cheering for Musharaf; I was happy this change coming in a country which is blamed for many things wrong in my country. I was happy to see the system work.

Might be because this was first time I have seen the election really working and choosing a person which I felt was far better choice than opponent. Might be because there were not cries of rigging and Mc Cain accepted results quite honorably. Might be because I saw the process giving opportunity to people to prob the candidate (unfortunately the 2012 elections were quite a disappointment in that respect)

No, I was not disillusioned like many of my American friends (living in Pakistan makes you too wise and cynical to believe in the oratory skills of a leader), but his ideas were grate. He looked like a leader willing to take charge, willing to defend his position, willing to admit his mistakes.

Yes did I have hope, of course, I had hope, did I had expectation? No I did not had any expectation of him bringing world peace or changing the America in 100 days.  Or he is going to radically change the philosophy with which the big nations run the world.

Today I am hopeful that we are going to see the same thing in Pakistan, an election after 5 years of completion of the Constitutional Assembly. Election, not because someone took 10, 20 thousand people and blocked the constitution avenue or did the train march towards Islamabad (never understood this name, because no trains go to Islamabad) and not because Army general pushed his stick on the chest of PM for announcing elections.

And I am hopeful because an outsider has ruined the party for others, Imran Khan and PTI long time in making have finally got enough muscle to push the old guard a little bit. It is not same comfortable run towards election. Again I have hope, but I have no expectation.

Why I have no expectation, because like Obama, he is new but like Obama he has Old guard around him. Like Obama he has words, courage and vision but no clear path. No expectation because he did not understood beauty of system and cried of fall of government too many times in past five years. No expectation because he and most of his supporters think, matters could be solved by just nomination of one person. I have no expectation because he will have to do on job learning, it is different than coming on television and giving policy speech on prompt.

I have hope because unlike the two parties that have their roots in being raised by the Dictators this one does not (atleast not directly). To refresh memories both Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif were part of Dictatorship. Unlike the two other parties, this party does not appear to have roots in one area or province, unlike other parties it does not have the family members nominated or “elected” to main party posts. Unlike other parties it worked for last 15 years to reach here. Unlike other parties it does have “ideas” about the situation and are willing to come out and say them. Even when this lets supported of other “silent” parties claim title of “secular parties” (interesting to see PPP do that when PPP elected President of Pakistan was absent for air waves on the killing of the Governor of Punjab or of the Minister of Minority affairs).

I have hope because hundreds of thousands of youngsters that had nothing to do with this system few years back are putting their hearts in it. I know many will have their hearts broken within few months of election.

I have hope because I am up for long run and long fight, I don’t believe in miracles that change nations (I have seen too many of those) or in revolutions that claim to burn down old cancers. I believe is long, tiring battles where grounds are won inch by inch.

So yes I have hope, and I wish my people will vote (whoever you try to vote to, it’s up to you);

So yes I will, when the elections will be over and results come in, go to the University Ave. right in front of parking lot of the Chemistry department and will cross the road. I know it is totally unrelated and non-consequential action, benefiting no one. But I will be there for myself and for my hope of Pakistan’s future.  You are welcome to join.

 

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Religion, gays and marriage


On the wall of a friend of mine, there was discussion going around. Gay marriage being in the court, every one has it’s opinion. A friend’s friend’s opinion was laws have been previously derived from the religion (for that being the Christian religion). I divide my answer in two portions, one is just religion and country’s laws.

As for respect of religion in making laws. Today many unfortunately are little quick in dismissing anything that comes from the religion. Almost all the religions are great source of information and knowledge (at least some parts of all of them). Both religious and anti-religious people ignore the fact that all the religions have changed with the time. They might be divine but their current shapes are due to human reasoning.

Scholars and philosophers have debated what is the meaning of the message of revelations. Why certain interpretation is more correct than other, why one should be more beneficial to society and what view will be more helpful to a person . In the process they have defined and refined it. Their debates and explanations are education for us. Religions being the books of constitution for so many centuries will always be referenced.Ignoring them is will be ignoring efforts and works of great minds.

Question is should “All” the laws be continued to be derived from religion or not. I am not American so my point of view might not matter what American society needs, but I am sharing my point of view because this issue is going to become big issue in the countries which have not legally accepted this.

Problem with the religion is there are huge number of versions of every single religion (Catholic, Protestants  Suni, Shia, Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews, Hindus who believe in one Veda and not others). One might say they are all (all versions of Ibrahimic religions) are together on this issue of gays, they don’t accept it (there is still debate whether they ask society to punish them). Accepting one law just because some religion tell you, will create logical fallacy  Like any mathematician or law professor will tell you once you accept the one law just because it is coming from XYZ-religion, we set precedence that could be used to add more laws belonging to religion XYZ. It breaks the rules, is muddles the axioms.

Either religion should be used to make all the laws or it should not be, if we want  a system that accepts part of religion to be made into law but not the other part, we end up with complex set of rules. Such rules will always be pushed to be changed and that’s what is going around right now. Let me give you example we don’t have now the punishment for infidelity or adultery and I don’t believe anyone wants that to become one, but what’s the logic behind it if we are accepting marriage should be defined by religion then what about infidelity? Or what about the people belonging to other religions? should they be burned on stakes?

I am fine with any nation saying they want XYZ to be national religion, thinking we can have non-religious state where XYZ is major religion is just wrong. But sir, if it is not (which quite clearly today’s America is not) then instead enforcing religion through laws and courts you have to go back to people and make them believe in what you believe in. Same goes with the civil rights, you cannot get civil rights by laws, you get them by having size able population believing in what you believe.
In terms of , My point has always being “marriage” as a word has been something that has been derived from the religion. I don’t want government to do anything with “marriage”, in the least that word should be removed from the law books. Government should issue some nicer version of “civil union” and declare we don’t do marriages. If you want to marry, go to Churche, Masjid, Synagogue, Gurdwara or any other religious entity you want to and which ever version of it you want to. if they want benefits they can register with government and government will not discriminate against people regardless of gender, cast, belief, orientation, etc. ….
 

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Pakistan’s PM to be arrested.


Interesting and serious situation has developed in Pakistan. One of the province is now being run by governor with provincial govt. resigned. Hundreds of protesters are being led in capital Islamabad by “suddenly appearing” cleric demanding assemblies be dissolved. And now the Supreme Court has ordered that PM be arrested and presented in front of court.

I have been little away from the situation so don’t know why is he being arrested. I know in what case he is being arrested, but “why” is big question. Has he being charged? if yes, then by whom? Attorney General of his own govt.? Or the court is just asking him for the appearance? Is he being arrested for the questioning and investigation?

With it the KSE has plunged 500 points, things are going from serious to worse quite quickly. With the court time already ended (or near the end) getting a pre-arrest bail will be impossible. So how the police handles this situation? Will PM has to be arrested? or he can just present himself to the court in the morning?

To me question is What was court thinking????? Without indictment  you are arresting PM??? under what rule and for what purpose? just for questioning? He is PM, he is there, he could be ordered to appear for the questioning.

 

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Doing more than just sit in


Today saying “I am Shia too” will not do,

today just doing sit-in will not do. Those 100 dead men and their families deserve more than that from us.

We the facebook protesters, who are doing laudable service by spreading information about Quetta sit in, should do something more important. We should start conversation and initiate process of putting in paper solid demands.

We should start conversation about how really to safeguard Quetta and Balochistan, we should help shape what expectation from govt. should be. Instead of just slogans we should put point of actions. Each of us wants justice for the ones who have been killed and targeted. But what is that “justice”? We want the peace and security but “how” is where our politicians and we are failing. We are demanding but our demands are hollow and ambiguous.

There is big blank bag of nothing, whenever I hear demand restructuring of police or swift justice. These are empty, lazy slogans. And we all get engulfed in them, because they are easy to make and in the end these make it easy for us to blame others for the failure.

Some of us wants army to come and take up the govt in Balochistan, but what they going to do? Do they have investigative powers and abilities? What mechanism will keep check and balances? How the ones who are arrested will be prosecuted? don’t we remember news of alleged terrorists being released because prosecution could not  build case or police (or army personnel) made procedural mistakes while arrest and investigations ? Will just putting more men on street will do away with the terrorists? What about the hateful material and attitudes we all are harboring for each other’s sects?

Quetta needs much stronger plan. It needs increase in police force, it needs cameras on the roads, it needs better intelligence operations, it needs better bomb detection equipment., change in the “educational material” to include acceptance of what is different. It needs our help to construct charter of demands, a blue print that we should use for all the cities on Pakistan. Most of all it needs better Civil Local Govt.. not the old ideas of putting Army in-charge.

It needs our help in making us realize once for all that there is no silver bullet, we can’t just ask for messiah to come and relieve our pain. It needs our sit-ins, but it need us also to do our job that is converting slogans into documents of practical plans.

 

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